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Sprints & Marathons – Three Helpful (and Healthful!) Tips for Nailing an Ambitious CLM Implementation

By Bernadette Bulacan

Here’s a riddle: Is CLM implementation a sprint or a marathon? SURPRISE! It’s both!

Not many people – lawyers or otherwise – come to Las Vegas to talk about running, but that’s exactly what happened at the Association of Corporate Counsels (ACC) annual meeting held earlier this week on The Strip.

During a session I helped lead with representatives from Baxter and Deloitte, we talked about how legal departments can move fast to achieve quick wins during CLM implementation (the sprint) while continuing work toward their more ambitious contracting goals – enterprise-wide, structured, and connected contract data (the marathon).

Best yet, everyone left the room sweating less about launching their CLM initiatives.

Here are the three big takeaways from our talk:

1. Don’t try going from couch to champ right away

Contracts touch every part of a business—World Commerce & Contracting found that, on average, 25% of an organization has a hand in managing contracts. Contracts are also extremely consequential, defining what a company buys, what it sells, and how it runs.

Little wonder, then, that digitally transforming these assets pays massive dividends. Yet the scope and impact of contracts can also lead legal departments to launch into massively ambitious projects on day one—all the contracts, all the processes, and people! But here’s the deal: No one goes straight from couch potato to marathon runner. Training is key—shorter runs that build endurance, morale, and momentum toward the really big projects.

A phased approach to implementing CLM is your interval training – the short sprints that result in quick wins. These quick wins help to build champions of the solution within every business unit that will help to advance implementation across the organization. breaking it down into segments and taking a phased approach will deliver maximum value to each business unit and ensure each department fully buys into the project.

Approaching implementation in phases allows organizations to learn from individual users in real-time, giving insight into how they acclimate to the new system while addressing areas of improvement.

One Icertis customer chose to start their enterprise-wide implementation by focusing on NDAs. The project got the team used to the Icertis Contract Intelligence (ICI) platform, as well as the change management that comes with any tech implementation. Ever smarter and faster because of this sprint, the project was completed in just 100 days, and the team was off and running for more ambitious projects.

2. Don’t feel like you have to go it alone

So setting milestones, preparing, and training is essential to a successful implementation – but how do you decide which milestones? Which projects make the most sense for your business?

Icertis has resources you can access to help answer those questions. Still, I would also recommend connecting with someone who has experience in successfully standing up CLMs – in other words, a coach.

Advisory firms, from big to boutique, are standing up robust CLM practices stocked with a massive amount of knowledge about contracts, contract technology, and their impact on business.

Before starting your marathon training, consider working with your solution vendor to find a partner to work with. Your implementation isn’t their first – and certainly won’t be their last. Implementation partners are the coaches that will help you set your milestones and teach you how to approach each.

3. Don’t forget to keep your eyes on the prize

Throughout this post, I’ve noted the risks associated with taking on too big a task with your CLM implementation. But don’t lose sight of an even bigger threat: setting your ambitions too low.

To belabor the running metaphor just a bit longer – you might finish a 10K and be tempted to call it good. But remember, the marathon is worth it. Organizations with fully scaled contract intelligence platforms don’t just see better contract management—they drive business with more revenue, savings, better contract compliance, and less risk.

One Icertis customer manages nearly all of its sell-side contracts on the Icertis platform. This system constantly generates data that the contract team shares with business stakeholders for better compliance and commercial performance. According to the contract implementation lead, like a runner’s high, success is addictive.

“I have many constituents who I support, and now that we have this data available, those constituents want even more data from us to aid their decision-making,” he says.


Contracts are at the foundation of commerce. As legal teams work to gain greater visibility and control of their contracts, they must remember that their contract management solution should benefit the entire organization, now and in the future.

Remember, CLM rewards big projects, but that doesn’t mean they happen overnight. The first step is getting off the couch. Oh, and don’t forget to hydrate, especially if you’re in Vegas.